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In Dante's WakeReading from Medieval to Modern in the Augustinian Tradition$
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John Freccero, Danielle Callegari, and Melissa Swain

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264278

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264278.001.0001

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Allegory and Autobiography

Allegory and Autobiography

Chapter:
(p.96) Allegory and Autobiography
Source:
In Dante's Wake
Author(s):

John Freccero

, Danielle Callegari, Melissa Swain
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823264278.003.0005

This chapter discusses how autobiography is represented schematically in Dante's poem by the synthesis of Platonic allegory with traditional biblical motifs. Dante's descent into Malebolge—and particularly the figure of Geryon, which epitomizes it—is an allegorical motif claiming no existence outside the text. They structure elements of Dante's experience in such a way that an account of his life has at the same time a moral significance for “nostra vita.” The protagonist of the story is at once Dante Alighieri and “whichever man,” meaning not the abstract “everyman” of morality plays, but rather a historical individual, elected by grace. If we were to ask about the “truth” of such an account, in the everyday, biographical sense, the answer would certainly not be found in these allegorical motifs—rope, dragon, abyss—but rather in the existential realities underlying them.

Keywords:   Divine Comedy, Dante, Inferno, allegory, Geryon, Malebolge, biblical motifs

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